The World Series.
Eddie Rosario capped a remarkable NL championship streak with a three-run homerun, sending the Braves onto the biggest stage of all with a 4-2 victory over the defending champions Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.
The Braves won the playoffs in the best of seven games four to two, exorcising last year’s NLCS demons _ when Atlanta lost 2-0, 3-1 to the Dodgers _ and advancing to face the champion of the ‘AL Astros.
Game 1 is Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
“It’s a great time in my life,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “But I want more. I want to win the World Series. “
The Braves were series regulars in the 1990s, winning all in ’95 with a squad that included Hall of Fame members Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.
It remains their only title in Atlanta. The Braves have lost the series four more times in that decade, a string of playoff disappointments that marred a momentous streak that rose to 14 straight division titles.
After being swept away in the 1999 World Series by the Yankees, the Braves couldn’t even make it that far in the playoffs.
Twenty-two years of frustration, 12 playoff appearances short of a pennant.
Finally, it’s over.
“We did it,” longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman said, sounding a little bewildered.
Rosario was acquired in a flurry of deals just before the July 30 trade deadline that rebuilt the exhausted outfield for the Braves, who lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season-ending knee injury. and slugger Marcell Ozuna with a hand injury and legal issues.
They were not lacking in the NLCS at all.
“Everything that was thrown at us,” said Freeman, “we were able to overcome it. “
Rosario set an Atlanta record and became only the fifth player in baseball history to have 14 hits in a playoff series. He was an easy choice as the series MVP.
Stimulated by the chants of “Eddie!” Eddy! Eddie ”of the boisterous sold-out crowd of over 43,000, Rosario finished 14 of 25 (0.560) against the Dodgers, with three homers and nine RBIs.
“We just couldn’t figure it out,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.
Will Smith worked a perfect ninth for his fourth playoff stoppage after a brilliant stint in relief from winner Tyler Matzek, who escaped a huge jam in the seventh by taking the side out.
Rosario’s final blow was certainly the biggest of the 30-year-old Puerto Rican career.
With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the fourth, Rosario arrived after batter Ehire Adrianza extended the inning with a brace with two outs in the right corner of the field. Idle receiver Travis d’Arnaud was held third by coach Ron Washington, surely aware of who was next.
Rosario engaged in an extended duel with Walker Buehler, who stepped in to start a three-day rest after ace Max Scherzer was unable to go due to a tired arm.
Rosario swung and missed the first two shots. Then he made a mistake. Then he took a bullet. Then he fouled on two more shots.
Finally, he got one he loved from the 16-game winner of the Dodgers – a cutter that Rosario turned into a rocket at 105 mph along the right field line, growing up, straight like an arrow. until he landed well in the seats below the Chop House restaurant.
“We got him 0-2 and we just couldn’t push him away,” said Roberts.
Rosario knew it was gone, dancing down the line after delivering a 361-foot final shot to a highly paid team that won 106 games in the regular season _ 18 more than the Braves winners of the ‘East NL _ but failed in his attempt to become the first repeat baseball champion since the New York Yankees in 2000 won their third straight title.
“We’ve had a great season,” said Roberts. “We were two wins away from going to the World Series. I want guys to be proud of it. “
KILL THE NARRATIVE
The Braves will be looking to bury their city’s reputation for misery in the playoffs across a wide range of sports.
From four World Series losses in the 1990s to the NFL Falcons who took a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl, Atlanta once again finds itself on the brink of an extremely rare feat.
The ’95 Braves remain the only team in town in the four major sports – baseball, football, basketball and hockey – to win a title. Freeman said after a loss in Game 5 that the city’s history would remain an issue “until we kill this narrative”.
They are four wins from doing just that.
SNIT VS. TO CUT
Braves manager Brian Snitker will see a familiar face in the opposing dugout during the World Series.
Troy Snitker is the Astros hitting coach.
“The Snitker family are going to have a World Series trophy in our house,” said Brian Snitker. “I don’t know who’s going to get it, but we’re going to have one. “
The Braves had a stellar performance from their field _ including 10 strikeouts _ after starter Ian Anderson was lifted for a nip in the fourth.
AJ Minter struck out four strikes in two perfect innings. Matzek did the same in a much more tenuous situation, entering the seventh with runners in the second and third and a run already in place after Luke Jackson failed to get out.
Matzek took the side out in this inning, including Mookie Betts on three straight shots to block both runners. The pitcher pumped his fist twice and let out a scream as he exited the mound.
The southpaw came back in the eighth for another perfect inning, including his fourth K, before Smith fanned two more hitters in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Matzek has 11 strikeouts with runners scoring in the seventh inning or later in the playoffs.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t play at all in 2017 and made his way to the Braves with two stints in an independent league.
“I ran out of baseball in 2017,” said Matzek. “Now I’m in the World Series. “
Dodge: After a seven-game winning steak in elimination games is snapped, they won’t play another game that matters until the 2022 season opener against the Colorado Rockies. It happens on March 31 at Dodger Stadium.
Courageous : Charlie Morton is set to face his former team in the World Series opener. He memorable came out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2017 Series to pitch four two-stroke innings, closing the only title in Astros history with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers. .